Sunday, August 28, 2011

My love-hate relationship with the first day of school—I can see I’m not alone

1973 September3


This morning I called my sister Shawn to wish her a happy birthday (Happy Birthday, Shawn!) and asked to speak to my 6 year old niece Sophia.  When she got on the phone and I asked her if she was excited about her first day of school tomorrow, she said “Yes and no Uncle Doug... I wish I had more time, there’s still some stuff I wanted to do.”

Shawn, Donda, Steve & that’s me in the back, Sept 1973

Hearing that pitiful lament suddenly reminded me of my last days of summer vacation, a feeling of excitement about starting a new school year but a sense of dread too; no more staying up late, no more sleeping in & eating cereal in your underwear while watching gameshows.  No more swimming or cookouts or family vacations, no more going days at a time without wearing shoes, no more setting up a bedsheet tent in the backyard (complete with flashlight, comic books and bologna sandwiches) for overnight camping.  No more drive-in movies, no more county fairs, no more weekday explorations of the woods behind your neighbor’s farm because you just KNEW there was something more there than meets the eye... it was all over.


Duke, me & Shawn in 1969, the year before we moved ‘to the country’; my brother’s shirt has the Apollo moon landing


But there was a good side to it too; I can still remember laying on my back in the yard those final days of summer, restless and thinking the first day of school couldn’t get here fast enough.  Going shopping with my mom & piling those large white bags from Fishers Big Wheel into the back of the station wagon, filled with new school clothes and notebooks and bookcases and lunch boxes. 

And of course, always coming home from school that first day, flushed with excitement at seeing all your old classmates again, surprised at how tall some of them had grown over the summer and seeing the girls in your class in a new light; wow, they looked like real teenagers!

Poor Duke got his head chopped off in this picture of our first day of school in 1976

I was just wondering, do people still do this?  Line their kids up and take pictures of them before their first day of school?   To be honest, I don’t even KNOW anyone that has more than one or two kids, let alone six. 

By the time my youngest sister Courtney started first grade, my older brother Duke had graduated from Pitt, and my sister Shawn & I were both attending college.

Well, since my mom went to so much trouble to document her kids’ school years, I thought I’d share a few of them here.  They bring back some good memories & are a cool reminder of the Seventies.   (Like the picture below from September 1977—I am digging Steve & Donda’s lunch pails, Happy Days and Donny & Marie!  And my sisters make quite the fashion statement in all that denim.)

September 1977,  our older brother Duke was now away at Pitt

So maybe tonight I’ll call my little niece again & tell her how sorry I am that she wasn’t able to do all the stuff she had wanted to do this summer (the poor thing!) but I just know she’s going to have an exciting school year ahead.  (Um...hello?!  This squirt attended more cookouts and trips than I have in a lifetime—and spent more time in the water than most fish!)   I will also do my best to refrain from telling her to enjoy these first days of school while they last, because before you know it, they’ll be nothing more than some mildly embarrassing photos of days (and fashions) gone by. 

Besides, she’s only starting first grade—both she (and my sister) have 12 years of these to look forward to!

Happy Birthday Shawn—and good luck tomorrow, Sophie!


  1. Haha--well Ms.Retro, I actually thought about you (and our friend Gilligan) when I was posting these pictures :)


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